Managing Depression without drugs
“Depression is the greatest isolation we can experience. When we are simply unhappy we can seek comfort from others and we can comfort ourselves. But in depression we can neither give nor receive comfort for we are alone in a prison and that prison is filled with fear, anger, guilt and despair. We build such prison for ourselves”. Dorothy Rowe.
This quote hit a nerve when i first read it on the back cover of her book. I’m re-reading it after many years on my shelf when I started “educating” myself on depression while both researching for my counselling degree and struggling with bouts of depression myself. I’ve wrestled with ‘the black dog’ as Churchill called it, for many years to varying degrees. I’ve seen doctors, tried various meds, but nothing really worked, some meds even gave me nightmares in the small moments I was able to sleep. The past few years I’ve had trouble sleeping so I’ve relied a lot on Tylenol sleepy time, or other various sleep aids, some natural, some not. But I don’t like the thought of what all these drugs are doing to my body and my brain.
In 2012, there were gross tensions in my 4 year marriage as well as coping with the horrifying death of one of my fur boy-bies, and putting down an injured ‘stray’ cat that was in the process of adopting us, I opted for the easy road, as I see it, of taking a pill to make me feel better. But after 2 weeks I decided to stop taking them and try something different. I took a deep breath and decided I wanted to ‘manage’ this beast without the help of drugs, because while drugs can and are helpful in some cases, it’s not really a healthy, long-term fix, especially for what ails me.
You see, I’m not sure if my propensity to be depressed will ever fully evaporate, its more about managing it and not just try to supress or drown out my yukky thoughts and feelings with meds or through self medication such as alcohol or other mood altering substances but to take a wholistic approach of mind, body, soul and spirit. But a word of caution, I’m not suggesting people on meds under doctors orders stop taking their meds because that would be neglectful of me as a qualified counsellor, as I’m not a psychiatrist or psychologist so I am not licensed to prescribe or deal drugs and medications and I don’t personally know your situation. I am strictly sharing my experience with depression and what has worked for me. We, alone, know ourselves better than anyone else. We have to become our best friend and advocate and put our health and wellbeing first before we can be on any use to anyone else. PLEASE NOTE*** Psychotics please note, I’m not talking to you! Take your meds!! I am not a psychiatrist who is in the business of prescribing meds nor am I bound by the same codes as them so I am not trying to take the place of psychiatric care in patients who are already in support of it.How do we ‘fix’ depression?
The million dollar question? There’s a theory around every corner. To ‘fix’ it first we have to understand what is it we are trying to fix! Trying to understand what is causing your depression may be helpful if you know what it is, but if you don’t know, its hard to fix. I feel I get depressed in knowing there are some things in my life, that I have no control over, or power to change, which causes sadness that just lingers and muddies my entire outlook on life. They are fixed realities that can’t be altered no matter how much wishful thinking or positive thinking I apply, PMA has its limits. Comparing my life and my journey with others is another sure fire way for me to get depressed too. Then there is the physical aspect. Not eating right, not sleeping right, not exercising and getting enough fresh air and sunshine. These are so important and, when ignored, take its toll on our mental and physical and spiritual healthy. I see it in my own life.
In 2012, I started taking Niacin (with Nocotinic acid) 100 mg tablets, as well as omega 3 fatty acid, multivitamin, antioxidant and vitamin c and e, which i had been taken for a long while but not with absolute consistency, just like my exercising. But it has become clear to me now how important each of these aspects are, in managing and ultimately overcoming depression. A wholistic approach encompassing the spirit, soul, mind and body. I have improved so much since I first wrote this blog in 2010 when I was in a dark, dark hole. Writing things out helps; getting your thoughts and feelings OUT in general is helpful, cos in doing so, you’re connecting outside of yourself and that’s what really helps you stay in touch with reality and with your humanity; just knowing you are not alone and somebody cares. Even if its just the postman, and its only in that moment. LOL! 🙂
When I wrote this in 2010, I was pretty low and thought I was about as low as I could go but, wait, there was more… In 2012, when I revisited this article and updated it, I noticed a slight improvement in my mental health because I was taking a few supplements, mentioned above, and had an friend come back into my life and we reconnected in a very deep and profound way. Had my circumstances changed? No! What changed was my focus?
I found a greater awareness of my relationships with people and with God. I was ‘practising prayer’ as … says and paying more attention to my inner thought life and feelings and feeling feeling alive again and at peace with my maker. I began, once again, to take the bible literally and thereby ‘casting my cares upon the Lord because He cares for you’, and sought out inspirational and motivation messages of hope and encouragement that fed my spirit and nurtured my soul and stimulated my mind with rays of hope.
This is definitely a spiritual discipline that needs working out like exercise, on a daily basis in order to see results. Just as with muscles, the more you work them, the more they grow and the stronger they get. Use them or lose them, as the saying goes. So many people walk around with spirit atrophy, which is apathy gone bad. And once atrophy sets in, the whole inner world, of thoughts, feelings and outlook become toxic.
There is a counselling technique called ‘magic wand’, where you imagine if you had a magic wand, and could have anything you wish for, what would it be? This helps to locate the hidden dreams and disappointments of your heart. Those dreams are often based on unrealistic ideals of perfection and improbability that we were conditioned to admire and desire through the media and worse, fairytales. I wrote a poem with a paragraph about that (insert link to poem). The media-generated ‘ideals’, fuelled by the almighty $$$ of greed through marketing and advertising, to take your money, set us up for absolute disappointment in our own lives through comparison, by bombarding us with images of ‘perfection’ and package it as ‘the norm’, just to sell and promote products to push on us. This too makes our realities seem worse than what they are cos we measure our lives through these lenses. Aim for progress, not perfection!
Not good! What is normal these days? Dismember that word! There are more violent deaths in families than random killings according to social science research . Same with those ‘classic’ fairy tales of Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty: they all share a theme of a helpless female being rescued by her prince charming….bollocks! This kind of fantasy only feeds the helpless woman syndrome and the false illusion that we women need and are waiting on a man to save us! It’s fabricated illusion and when our lives don’t reflect this, we feel let down and disappointed in life.
This makes us compare our lives to the illusions of happiness and success around us and come up short. While most of us are living quiet lives of desperation, we are bombarded with images of false illusions and are made to think this is reality!! It’s not!! Reality is hard work and a full time job (so the poster says, which I love and will share). We are all broken and damaged in some way, just trying to find our way through life as best we can. Some just hide it better than others. ‘Quiet lives of desperation’ is another famous quote by….. That’s reality! And if anyone thinks otherwise, they’re full of pride and deluding themselves while the rest of us look at them with envy and contempt, leading to false feelings of guilt, shame and inferiority. This too makes us feel sad and depressed. So taking a pill is not going to fix this!! What is?
If your parents were addicts of some sort, even mildly, or simply liked to overindulge in recreational and/or prescription drugs and/or alcohol (socially acceptable but not without consequences to the family) and failed miserably in parenting you the right way as opposed to the wrong way – yes there is a right and wrong way to raise children into balanced and empathic individuals – then you are going to have issues in relationships. And if you’re deluded enough to think you don’t have issues, then chances are, people you are in relationship with will, so you have to have the tools needed to deal with other people’s issues as well as you’re own ones that you’re in denial about, making it even harder! 🙂
It’s about how you feel when you’re all by yourself and there’s no one around to prop you up or fill up the ‘space’. Some people use relationships to fill these vacuums too. They can never be alone. I suppose this explains the high levels of violence in families, when people use the notion of family to avoid being alone, they are not always going to get along. They are simply tolerating each other until one day they explode. People act out what they learnt in their families.
I have to say this and its not going to make me popular with parents, but what I see as the result of much of today’s social ailments is a result of poor parenting. Clueless in some cases. It’s a pity we’re not made to take a parenting test before having children, like taking a driving test before being let out on the roads to be a danger to self and others. Why do some people think, the ability to ‘have’ a baby, comes with it, the ability to raise it well, without help? It’s too easy to point the finger at our troubled youth, but let’s take a look at the people who raised them and start there!
But there are some ‘issues’ that are more socially accepted than others. Pride and stoicism are highly valued in our culture, as is greed and arrogance masked as ruthless ambition! All the marks of self-centredness at others’ expense, yet so sanctioned in ‘middle-class’ values! Oh, I feel a few eyebrows raised at that one!! I just might have kicked a sacred cow. Moo!
Still today we struggle in relationship with parents and others because of all these issues, that too can cause sadness (and result in you being a perfectionist, when you’re parents were not perfect, you overcompensate. Or if they were perfectionists, you had their high expectations to live up to, cos you think success means power and privilege.
Guess what? It doesn’t. True success comes from having a kind and caring heart for others, especially those who can’t pay you back). And having empathy for the suffering of others and a willingness to lend a hand. There is nothing more depressing than living a self-centred life that revolves around me-me-me!
For years you may have lived in denial wishing and hoping that your mother would be the mum you always wanted her to be or what society deems an ideal mother should be. So you feel deeply ashamed and angry but keep it locked inside cos ‘she’s your mother’! Heaven forbid you criticise her. Internalised, repressed rage and anger promote depression too.
Or, you live in a fantasy world of ‘let’s pretend’ and for years have played the ‘peacemaker’ or the one to ‘bring the family together for family sake’. Or quite simply, you’ve had to be a mother to your own mother! This can be a great disappointment also. One that we can’t fix because its dependent upon another person’s willingness and ability to change, and we can’t change other people. We can barely change ourselves! And realistically, people don’t often change and if they do, change is slow. Overnight turnarounds are usually short lived and leave a string of carnage in their wake.
There’s always a black sheep in the family, but all to often what this ‘black sheep’ is, is a scape goat for all the family’s veiled dysfunction. My father was his family’s scapegoat, and it ultimately cost him his life. the ‘scape goat’ of his large irish catholic ‘God fearing’ family and it destroyed him in the end. Poor bugger, he had a good heart but couldn’t overcome the ‘demons’ of the family’s woes.
Consequently, my family were ostracised and looked down upon by the family at large. This too was and still is a great source of misery for me that contributes to my depression because I have no power over the way those people see me through their own distortions. It’s inherited prejudice of which I have no control over which makes me sad and depressed but it is what it is so what I must do is overcome it and build an internal scaffolding system that can carry me through life despite where I’ve come from. Sadly, what I see in life is a lot of prejudice and hypocrisy from others, but I don’t need to let it eat me alive. I can overcome this too and not become like them.
Taking a pill cannot fix any of this! It only numbs your feelings and buries your realities and gets you hooked on the drugs with their nasty mood swings, side and withdrawal effects. When you finally decide to eliminate the meds, you’re left with the same vacuum of emptiness and despair that you had before the meds. Same with self medicating drugs such as weed and alcohol. Sure, they may feel like they are making the road smoother but they bring with them their own set of challenges and issues: ‘side effects’ if you will.